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Leadership – setting the tone

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Talking with a client the other day about a Google story – how they have a slide in one of their buildings instead of stairs. We got to talking about leaders set the tone for their leadership.  By the environment they create around them.

It also got me thinking about the difference between tone, mood and emotions.  If there is any, to start with.  And what leaders need to do about the tone they set – so that their team can work in the best possible environment.

Noticing Emotions

I know a bit about emotions.  I’m not a scientist but I researched what I could for my first book.  I found out about the endocrine system and how that interacts with the brain and the body.  It’s like the mind/body interface.

Tiny amounts of hormones create emotional responses to triggers.  Then our brains pick up on the response and notices them.  Turning physiology into mental awareness.  Basically “I’m feeling…..”

I see emotions as the responses to the things that happen to trigger us in a day.  Emotional Intelligence work tells us we have about 6 seconds to control our response to those triggers.

  • For the challenging emotions – count to 10 before responding.
  • For the positive ones –  share them around.


Mood is a bit different. This, for me, is more like “how I am” during the day.  The overview.  I know I’m affected by the well-being of my colleagues too.

When it was cold and overcast this morning I felt gloomy.  “When is summer going to come?”  Well, Spring would be a good start.  Tired and gloomy actually.  It’s been a demanding week.  A colleague reported that the sale of her flat has fallen through.

Then the sun came out.  My mood lifted.  I noticed the blossom on the trees and the lilac in bloom.  I had an email from a gardening colleague who added some tips on rose-growing onto the end of her business report.

And tone? 

For me, tone is what leaders do to create a work culture.  The best create an environment of productivity broadly balanced with a healthy dose of positivity.

They encourage working days peppered with humour – those little spikes of positive emotions that lift the mood.

Changing the tonebluebells and forget-me-nots

We don’t have a slide in our offices.  We do have a garden where I can get outside.  When I have time I immerse myself in digging out the weeds and nurturing the seedlings.

We’ve got swathes of forget-me-nots interspersed with bluebells at the moment.  So to shift my mood I just played with the camera on my phone.

It worked for me.  What works for you?


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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